Virtual Boston Marathon a new experience for Dartmouth runners

Sep 16, 2020

For the first time in the 124-year history of the Boston Marathon, the 26.2 mile race was cancelled due to coronavirus. 

But that didn’t stop a few Dartmouth residents from joining a group of 25 local runners to take part in the first-ever virtual Boston Marathon on Labor Day as they ran a loop through several South Coast towns.

Runners started at 6 a.m. on the route, which was organized by the Greater New Bedford Track Club and led them through Mattapoisett, Rochester, Acushnet, and Fairhaven before finishing back in Mattapoisett.

Signs of support — and signs naming towns along the original route, like Newton and Wellesley — plus water stands and friendly faces greeted them along the way.

Club member and Dartmouth resident Kim Gibson was looking forward to running her third marathon and first Boston Marathon this year.

“This was a very unique experience to say the least,” Gibson noted. “When Boston 2020 was first postponed, then cancelled, it was very deflating.”

But she said that “a group of runners came together to make sure we made the best out of a tough situation.”

“At no point in the 26.2 miles did I ever run alone,” Gibson stated. “Seven runners ran the first half marathon with me and I had a great friend even run the entire 26.2 with me.”

There were also friends and family cheering her along the entire course, some with homemade signs.

“We had water stops just about every three miles and the volunteers were amazing,” she added. “This was not the Boston Marathon I had envisioned, but with the camaraderie of the local community it was better than I could’ve ever imagined.”

Resident David Hawkins just took one day off after the virtual marathon before hitting the streets on another run, he said.

This would have been his second Boston Marathon and 14th marathon overall. 

“I wasn't sure until about two weeks before that I was going to run it,” he stated. “The training was the least I have ever done for a marathon...Considering the lack of training and temperature, I was somewhat happy with my time of 3:55.”

He added that without a crowd of other runners, the experience was “definitely different.” 

“The crowds of spectators along the Boston route do give you an adrenaline boost,” Hawkins noted. But he said he liked not having to get a bus to the race site hours in advance.

The track club also did a “great job” setting up the event, he said, adding that he enjoyed knowing the volunteers and many of the people — including other runners and cyclists — who came out to support the runners along the way.

“I chose to run the virtual race with the GNBTC instead of my own run so I could be out with others,” Hawkins said. “I run enough of my training runs alone in Dartmouth.”

For Gibson, the experience “will never be topped.”

I am looking forward to the opportunity to run the real Boston route someday,” she said. “But I know for the group of us that ran that day, we certainly made lemonade with the lemons that life gave us!”